New Year, New Look, Maybe New Posts

Every year, around January (I think because its cold) I get the itch to start updating my blog again.

So it goes through three phases:

  1. New year -> itch to update
  2. Update theme -> start thinking about content
  3. Make post announcing as such, keep up until it stops being so cold.

So I think the realistic assessment here is that a) I should write more posts when its cold. And b) I’m only really an active blogger from January to about April.

Anyway, you can look forward to some new content soon.

Rumors of my absence have been greatly exaggerated.

Quite a bit has happened since March. I had to give up blogging for a little while to finish planning my wedding (which went off without a hitch).

I’m writing this post from Louisville, KY where I am currently attending the Governor’s Local Issues Conference. Thus far I have  learned about TheLeaderInMe, which is essentially an alternative model of education,  and Kentucky Infrastructure Authority grants.

I’m drafting blogs now to cover this conference, the wedding beers, and some recent adventures in cooking. Hopefully those will start rolling out as early as this weekend with updates coming weekly again (as originally planned).

Brewing, Spent Grain Bread, and Dog Treats

Starting the Kolsch boil.
Starting the Kolsch boil.

Yesterday Rebecca and I went over to ‘Nesbitt Farms’ (her dad’s house) to brew the first of our two wedding beers (Kleinen Keisel’s Kolsch). It went surprisingly well but for a hiccup with the cooling of the wort. Turns out snow insulates as expected. Because the hose lines were shut off we could not use our immersion chiller and ended up having to rely on circulating water around the carboy in our brew pot and even that required that the wort be cool enough that we could transfer to the carboy. All said and done we were brewing from 4:00 p to 1:00 a on Saturday.

Kolsch Ferment
The Kolsch, in its final resting place for the next few weeks.

 

The Kolsch as of noon today.
The Kolsch as of noon today.

Today Rebecca is making bread from the spent grains of the Kolsch. She’s been using this recipe for almost a year and a half now. The results vary widely by the type of grain used, but the recipe itself is great. We found it somewhere on the internet and have since lost the source. If you’re interested in trying it to, here’s the recipe we use:

Spent Grain Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups spent grain, milled or used whole
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Mill grains in food processor
  2. Mix yeast, water, honey and oil and let sit for 5 minutes in a warm spot (~70 F)
  3. In a large bowl, mix grains, flour and salt with hands–should feel like wet sand.
  4. Make a well and pour in liquid ingredients and mix until completely hydrated but not sticky
  5. Oil bowl, cover, and let rise until two times original volume is achieved (~90 minutes), punch down and transfer to 9 in. loaf pan.
  6. Cover and let rise again 90 min to 2 hrs.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 350 and bake 50 min. Internal temp should be between 190 and 200 F
Rebecca prepping the spent grain bread dough
Rebecca prepping the spent grain bread dough

Dog Treats

After Rebecca finishes her bread, I’ll be trying out a spent grain dog treat recipe I found here. I’d like to skip the flour, so I may try to replace or remove the flour the next time I make them. But for now I’ll be using the recipe as it is written. I’ll be using the last bag of grains from the Midwest Godfather Stout. The grains are dark and have a nice chocolate aroma without actually having any chocolate in them. Honestly, with a bit of sugar these might be a nice sort of biscuit for people too.

I’ll add pictures and and modifications I make to the recipe here when I’m finished.

Spent Grain Dog Treats Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups spent grains
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
Directions:

Mix spent grains and flour (my grains were wet so this made a sort of paste), mix peanut butter and eggs into the dry-ish mixture.

Spread on oiled baking sheet, score into 1in x 1in squares using a pizza cutter or knife, and cook for 30 min on 350 F. Check the pan for doneness and, if done, drop the temperature to 170 and let them dehydrate (mine took 6 hours). If you’re in a hurry you could probably up the temperature and check them more frequently.

Which Android ODB-II is better? Dash v. Automatic

Update: 8/16/2015; A lot had changed in the past year and a half. I’m using Automatic daily now. Automatic has, I believe, a revision of its ODB-II dongle now with more features. Dash now has a page for picking an ODB-II adapter, making it easier to get started with Dash.

Prices for a quality ODB-II adapter are <$75, but the proprietary nature of hardware singularity with Automatic certainly makes a case for the increased cost.

I have not kept up to date with API/Integration, but I saw some information about using IFTTT with Automatic, this is one of the main reasons I use Automatic now. I have two spreadsheets on GoogleDocs that I run analytics on using the information passed over by Automatic.

I’m lucky enough to be doing the Android beta for both Automatic and Dash. I’ve tested out Dash since October and Automatic since Christmas. Automatic is still in beta for Android while Dash has seen a formal release to the Google Play Store.

First what do Dash and Automatic do? Both apps support the use of a ODB-II bluetooth dongle in for your car to gather information from your car’s computer. That means things like acceleration, braking, speed, and MPG. The apps take this information with GPS data to come up with some pretty interesting information about one’s driving habits (and they attempt to get you to change your habits).

One benefit of Dash, off the bat, is that I’ve been able to use the dongle I purchased to use for Dash with other apps. In the case of Automatic, I haven’t found any apps that could connect to it. Dash’s recommended dongle is $80 while other dongles are as low as $10. I use the $24 BAFX ODB2 Scan Tool. Automatic requires a $99 dongle (though I got mine for $69 due to pre-ordering). Dash appears to have a lower cost to entry versus Automatic.

In order to give you a better idea about how each app works and displays information the next two sections will go over screen shots and detail the features of each app.

Automatic

The Automatic app obviously takes some design cues from Apple with its colors and use of white and gray. The home screen shows a weekly stats for driving. The app totals fuel costs, miles driven, hours driven, average MPG, and a driving score. Users can flip through previous weeks using the navigation in this part of the interface. Below this is a map that shows where your car is parked (or the last place you got GPS signal). The final third of the interface is a scroll-able log of each trip taken that week with information about miles drive, gas cost, hard brakes, rapid accelerations, and minutes over 70 mph.

The dongle uses audio cues to alert the driver if they hard brake, rapidly accelerate, or drive above 70 mph. The cues are nice, but often fail in the snow as a hard break and/or rapid acceleration are generally ‘detected’ whenever traction is lost.  Driving into work during the snow storm this week led me to a beep for a rapid acceleration when I got stuck in some snow and my wheels lost their grip. I got another beep when I braked lightly but lost traction, telling me I hard braked. Most of the time snow issues like these won’t be a concern.

The 70 mph driving beeps are annoying. Although it would be nice to drive under 70 mph sometimes, the heavy traffic of I-75 outside of 275 doesn’t give me a whole lot of options when the speed limit is 70 mph anyway. I wish there was a feature to turn it off.

The Automatic app currently lacks a number of features compared to the iOS version, but its really reliable and has been a joy to use.

Dash

The Dash app reminds me of any.do and Cal, using transparency, large blurred out images, and simple white icons to communicate information. Much of the design has changed since early versions of the beta app. Users of Dash setup their app by creating a garage that informs their profile. The profile  includes the type of car, your name and location, and bumper stickers. Bumper stickers are a unique form of achievements given out for hitting certain metrics. It’s a bit less direct than Automatic’s alarms but I certainly felt more positive about trying to get a bumper sticker v. being alerted (yelled at?) by a dongle. Dash’s driving alerts can be switched off. Similarly the leader board serves as a form of competition and peer pressure to keep one’s score up.

Dash also lets users find their car, dropping a pin at the last known GPS point. It also allows users to search for gas and the price of gas around them.

Comparison

Automatic is obviously in early beta. It’s a shadow of its iPhone counterpart. But it’s getting better steadily and once all the features are implemented, it will be a formidable product for those who want a hassle free experience. Overall the proprietary dongle and app seem to work flawlessly without much effort.

Dash is a bit more like what I’m used to on Android. Rough around the edges at times but works well and with relatively few issues. I sometimes have issues with connectivity between the dongle and my phone, but those have been limited in number. The developers have been responsive to my problems or I was able to correct it with a simple reboot and pull & plug of the dongle. Dash is much more feature complete at this point. All advertised features work as expected.

For my daily commute I’ll be using Dash, at least for the time being. The ability to use the BAFX for Torque Pro and Dash gives me a bit more utility versus the relatively basic Automatic app. As I said before, this should change in the future and Automatic is still the hands down winner for simplicity.

A Tiny Hiatus and Elections

I haven’t updated since mid October. I had suspected that might happen when my workload expanded more rapidly than I had expected. Now that things are a bit more under control, lets talk about the rest of last month:

PAS Retreat

Every Area Development District in Kentucky has persons holding the same job title I do; Public Administration Specialist (PAS) (though whether I hold that title is sometimes up for debate as my e-mail signature, job description, and work tasks fall between Community Development Specialist and Public Administration Specialist). Every quarter or so, the PAS meet and discuss issues developing at their ADDs or issues affecting PAS directly. As part of those series of meetings, the PAS also have a retreat.

This year’s retreat was held in Lake Cumberland, a lovely park that looks like everyone forgot about (architecturally) since the 1970s. At one point it was described to me as having a certain The Shining element to it. I think that when it got dark, that became especially true. The rain and cloud cover over the three days we were there didn’t help either.

Putting aside the professional development that occurred at the retreat, I want to quickly relate a story from the trip:

We arrived at Lake Cumberland on Wendesday and had finished up for the day. The PAS chair told us that there was a lovely restaurant up the road. Through a cascade of wrong turns, weather, and the fact that a whole caravan of cars was being used to transport all of us to this place, we got a bit lost and ended up driving for an hour and forty minutes before arriving for dinner. Worse still, the time zone changes near Lake Cumberland and we arrived in Eastern Time standards about 40 minutes before the place closed. Thankfully the restaurant was accommodating and we had a nice dinner (I had a bourbon burger that was great). Upon leaving we immediately found the nearest (only) grocery store (Wal-Mart) and got enough “vittles” for the rest of the trip. I wasn’t about to make that drive again.

The PAS retreat centered on the implementation of KY House Bill 1, which induces new regulations of transparency on Special Government Entities (SPGEs). The part of the new law that affects me the most is the inclusion of SPGEs under their parent jurisdiction’s ethics authority. I currently staff the Northern Kentucky Regional Ethics Authority. The changes will likely mean additional work for us as we now need to collect ethics related materials from jurisdictions (counties and cities) and now SPGEs as sub-units of these jurisdictions.

We also had the opportunity to meet with some of the Judge Executives from Lake Cumberland area. They gave us insight into the various aspects of a Judge Executive’s needs and responsibilities at various stages of experience from newly elected or getting the hang of it all the way to “I’m so popular I’ll likely retire from this.” (Which, by the way, its always great to have a Judge Executive with that sort of political will in their community, it goes a long way to implementing projects and getting people excited).

All in all the trip was a nice reprieve from the urban life I enjoy so much in Cincinnati. The fresh air and dreary weather really reminded me of the fall in Youngstown.

CDBG Certified Administrator Training

The purpose of CDBG Certified Administrator Training (CDBG Training from here on), is to ensure that public service employees and/or elected officials are properly prepared to handle and execute CDBG money and projects. I spoke with a friend of mine at HUD and they indicated that not even they have to take tests on this stuff, but I think its good that the Dept. for Local Government in KY is proactive in this sort of training (large amounts of money are handled through CDBG, and it seems like a great idea to ensure that those handling it have been fully prepared).

The training was pretty intense, it consisted of 3 days of 8:30-5:30 class over two binders full of information and regulations concerning the use of CDBG funds and how to plan and implement CDBG projects. On the fourth day a 100 question test is given, consisting of true/false, short answer, and multiple choice questions with a 3.5 hour window for completion. I was among the first people to finish. Although we’re still waiting for results (that could take up to 90 days) I’m fairly confident I was able to pass the test.

While at CDBG training I met a Community Development Specialist from the Green River Area Development District. From our conversation it sounds as if Green River has some really interesting things going on and some great ideas planned for the future. I was glad to have made the connection as its rare to find people as passionate about their work as this person was.

Elections

Elections took place on Tuesday (11/5) this week, and I can’t say I was very happy with the results. With Mayor-elect John Cranley soon taking office, the future of the street car is in question. Say what you will about the streetcar, but I’m pretty certain I don’t want another half completed public transportation project in Cincinnati. Aaron Ren over at the Urbanophile has a great write up on Cincinnati’s Culture of Self-sabotage. Its worth reading if you’re not familiar with Cincinnati’s storied history of shooting itself in the foot.

Next week:

Next week I’ll be going back to writing about brewing as we ramp up toward the colder weather. I believe we currently have a chili stout in the works and need to begin considering the beers we hope to have for our wedding in June.

UPSTART “street party” helps local entrepreneurs connect to startup resources

What: UPSTART, an innovative, entrepreneurial networking event and showcase

Sponsored By: NKY Tri-ED, NKY Chamber of Commerce, ASWD Law, Republic Bank, BLDG, West Sixth Brewing

When: September 19, 2013  | 4:30 – 8:00pm

Where: Pike Street, Covington, KY 41011
Free parking available next to Artisan Enterprise Center located at 27 West Seventh St.

Cost: Free to attend

RSVP: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/7394991619

Description: (Covington, KY) – On September 19, beginning at 4:30pm, the City of Covington will close Pike Street to launch UPSTART, a street party designed to inspire the entrepreneur in all of us. The purpose of the UPSTART event is to connect entrepreneurs with local organizations who provide resources to startups.

Homebrewing

Another thing I’ll likely be writing about consistently is our home-brewing.

By our, I refer to the list of people I collaborate with to brew beer:

  1. Rebecca (my fiancee) and I brew small all-grain batches (1 gallon) in our kitchen.
  2. Matt, Nikki, Mike, and Emily brew as a “guild” doing all grain batches.
  3. Rebecca, her father, and I brew extract kits together in his driveway.

Overall we’ve completed:

  • A failed Russian Imperial Stout that became the Midwest Godfather Hoppy Stout.
  • A going away gift to our friend Seth, the Going Away (Mosaic) IPA.
  • A Dunkelweiss we call the imBiber/imBieber,
  • A Maple Chocolate Porter, I call the MCP (Maple Chocolate Porter) Contingency Plan.
  • A Vanilla Porter we call Mad Maddie’s Porter.
  • An American Amber I called Papa Nezzy’s NumerUno.

We’re currently planning:

  • A pecan or almond brown ale (1 gallon all grain)
  • A pepper chocolate stout (5 gallon all grain)
  • A clone of the White House Honey Ale (5 gallon extract)

Most recently we finished the Dunkelweiss listed above. We opened the first bottles last Friday and overall we were a bit disappointed. Everything leading up to then had been promising, even Matt (the major skeptic), was waiting with bated breath for this beer. What we drank that night was good, if not promising, but not what we had anticipated.

We’ve resolved to let the beer condition for a month now and see if that mellows out the fruity/spicy/banana flavors and reveals some of the maltier flavor.

The Dunkelweiss definitely had our best brewing process to date, we resolves issues with mash efficiency and even created a yeast starter. There is, however, something we missed. Matt blames abnormally high fermentation temperatures due to summer heat. I think that may be part of it, but I wonder what else might have gone awry?

The Going Away IPA is still my favorite beer we brewed, it was so enjoyable and complex that we ended up drinking all of it the day we were able to being drinking it. We found a rogue bottle a month later and it still tasted great.

Anyway, more updates (with pictures!) to come as we improve and plan more beer.